Jung-il Doh

From Wikitia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jung-il Doh
Add a Photo
Born1941 (age 82–83)
Fukui, Japan
  • Scholar in humanities and English literature
  • Literary
  • Social critic
  • Educationalist
Academic background
  • Kyung Hee University
  • University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Academic work
Main interestsMarxism, (post-)structuralism, psychoanalysis, deconstructionism, and cultural studies

Jung-il Doh (Korean: 도정일; Hanja: 都正一; born 1941) is a South Korean scholar in humanities and English literature, a literary and social critic, and an educationalist. He was a professor in the English department at Kyung Hee University (경희대학교) in Seoul, South Korea, where he taught contemporary Literary theory, such as Marxism, (post-)structuralism, psychoanalysis, deconstructionism, and cultural studies. Since the late 1980s, he has published numerous essays and several books, which critique South Korea’s rapid turn toward an extreme consumerist society in the 1980s; his work also criticizes the country’s neglect of humanist and literary values. Doh’s writing also emphasizes the importance of South Korea’s educational reform to cultivate responsible citizens who can constitute and sustain the democratic society that had been achieved under painful efforts against the former military regime. In 2001, Doh became Executive Director of the Book Culture Foundation (책읽는사회문화재단),[1] where he worked to establish and support children’s libraries in many regions throughout South Korea. In 2011, he also helped found the Humanitas College (후마니타스칼리지)[2] at Kyung Hee University, where he advocated for the necessity of humanities education in training students to become responsible members of civil society.

Early Life

Doh was born in 1941 in Fukui (city), Japan, during Korea under Japanese rule. His mother was born to a wealthy family and had received a high school education (something quite rare for Korean women at the time). Being a woman with a "determination toward the new culture," she emigrated to Japan to escape the norms of Korean marriage: forced marriage at an early age at the behest of a family arrangement.[1] Doh’s father, in contrast, did not receive a proper education. He first brought to Japan as a conscripted worker but then chose to stay. In Japan, Doh’s family managed a grain syrup factory during the Pacific War (1941–1945).

Doh and his family returned to Korea when he was five years old. After living through the Korean War, Doh was readmitted into middle school. In 1961, he then enrolled in the English department of Kyung Hee University, where he acquired an interest in the philosophies of Plato, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger (and existentialism more broadly). Doh also cultivated interests in world literature, such as Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Greek tragedy, and in Myth.[2] His experience with Plato’s dialogues and Greek literature influenced his later critiques of the Postmodern literature wave and Late capitalism social reforms of the 1990s in South Korea. Among his prominent critiques was South Korea’s negligence of social rationality.

In 1965, Doh worked as chief editor of the monthly magazine Sisa-yong-o-sa (시사영어사, the forerunner to YBM). He then became the chief editor of overseas reports at the news agency Dong-Yang-Tong-Sin (동양통신) in 1971. In 1975, he moved to the United States to earn his Ph.D. in American literature and culture at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. He took a professorship at Kyung Hee University, teaching in the English department, which he retained from 1983 until he retired in 2006. His courses focused mostly on contemporary literary theories, such as Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, Deconstruction, and Cultural studies. While his writing rarely appeared before the public, beginning in the late 1980s he began publishing essays and articles, which gave voice to his critiques, in many different reviews, journals, and newspapers in South Korea. In an interview, he explained that the reason he had not spoken out before the 1990s was that he "did not have much thought on openly publishing his critiques."[3] He was doubtful whether Korean critics at the time would accept his ideas. He also believed that focusing his efforts on strengthening education was more necessary.


Against the Postmodernism of 1990s South Korea

Doh’s understanding of the 1990s in South Korea, which he saw as having many symptoms of late capitalism and of the collapse of culture, catalyzed his turn to publishing prolifically. In his work, he diagnosed and criticized the decline of the humanities in Korean society. To Doh, the early 1990s was a period constituting a "vast moral vacuum," in which the dominant ideological discourse of the 1980s had withered away quickly after the Soviet Union’s collapse.[4] Furthermore, the student movements of the 1980s against the military regime were largely influenced by socialist ideology. However, in his reading of the poet Ji-u Hwang’s 1993 poem, "Depressed Mirror," Doh points out that the blind belief in an idealized communist society, such as the former USSR, which had been shattered and has now disappeared into history.[5]

According to Doh, South Korea’s moral emptiness of the early 1990s was quickly filled by the extreme capitalistic culture and the people’s massive consumption. In one of his essays, "Utopia/Dystopia of Apgujeong," Doh depicted the emerging commercialized district of Apgujeong-dong, Seoul, in the early 1990s. He writes that, in Apgujeong, the "god of poverty had been forever banished" but that, in return, Korean’s capitalistic mindset had deepened; money and profit had become the universal value above all else.[6] He further insisted that both the current government’s and society’s heightened interest in the keyword "culture" (most notably, Doh implicates the South Korean Government’s announcement of the year 1993 as the "Year of Books" to promote Korea’s reading culture) should not be taken at face value.[7] He claimed that this "culture" actually indicated the commercialized industry of culture, rather than "culture" in the traditional sense. Compared to this cultural-industrial complex that ran according to the logic of money, and set profit as its sole purpose, for Doh, real culture encompassed a much broader notion of humanity, one that worked to sustain the basis of civil society and the human sensibility on totality. Doh argued that humans have built society "in order to cultivate a space that was not dominated by a single call for survival and competence."[8] Doh contended that real culture was declining significantly was vulnerable to being supplanted by the logic of money dominating 1990s Korean society.

Doh based his critique of postmodernism on this understanding. According to him, there had been a vigorous importation of Postmodern philosophy theories into Korea by the 'Post-kids' beginning in the mid- to late-1980s. Although Korean scholars actively engaged with the new trend, Doh pointed out that the discourse remained surface-level. According to him, this resulted from Korea’s dearth of experience in achieving and criticizing modernity itself, given that the history of Korea’s modernization is comparatively short. Another factor was that the preceding discussions on the theories that form the foundation of postmodernism — such as Structuralism, Deconstruction, and psychoanalysis — had not been properly rigorously assessed by Korean scholars before. Nevertheless, for Doh, postmodernism’s popularity in South Korea, even without a firm foundation, was peculiar. He hypothesized that this unnatural boom was, in actuality, a kind of intellectual bubble that simultaneously concealed and justified the fragmentation and extreme commercialization of Korean society.

Doh’s response to the postmodernist trend in South Korea is clear in his essay, "Poetics of Simulation, or the Problem and Prospect of Fabricated Literature." In this article, he views postmodernism (especially that of Jean Baudrillard and In-hwa Yi, a postmodern Korean novelist) as a deception that makes people believe that the real world and the poetic (or memetic) world have become indistinguishable, despite the very real, and very strict, separation between the mimesis and the real: "the real pain cannot be overcome by [the] simple mimesis [of its solution]."[9] In another essay, "Poetics of Oblivion, Poetics of Remembrance," Doh shows how postmodernism makes people forget and uncritically accept consumerism in Korea’s late-capitalist society.[10]

Crisis of Rationality, Humanities, Literary Criticism, and Education

Doh’s two projects of the 1990s were critiquing postmodernism and revitalizing Humanism, such as a "sensibility toward the whole, of human life and totality, of the relation between the part and the whole."[11] Such values have been largely eschewed of since the 1960s in the West and, in South Korea, since the late 1980s. This was an unwelcomed movement for many Korean critics at the time. Postmodernist ideas of fragmentation, superficiality, hybridity, intertextuality, the denial of totality and plausibility, and the valorization of accidents and openness were acquiring dominant consensus among young scholars, who viewed concepts like totality and subjectivity as stubborn and old fashioned. Doh did admit himself that the traditional concepts of rationality, totality, and subject make violent generalization possible. Simultaneously, however, he critiqued the extreme pluralism and relativism that would undercut the very idea of decerning between good and bad, or right and wrong within civil community.[12] He contended that this capacity to differentiate was necessary to maintain shared values among citizens and to sustain civil society.

Doh therefore attempted to revive the "old-fashioned" belief in rationality because he sensed various public realms deteriorating, and that the possible solution for this phenomenon could be to return to the social rationality (i.e., the critical capacity of reason) which the postmodernists had discarded in the 1990s. He insisted that the logic of the market was permeating every part of South Korea, destroying the domains of culture, art, knowledge, education, media, and public institutions.[13] Doh further argued that this dominance of a single call for capitalist logic, which he called 'Market-totalitarianism,' would eventually deepen the contradictory consequences of the logic of extreme survival and competition: the destruction of the ecosystem, decline of cultural quality, and deterioration of civil society. The fundamental despair over this scenario, for Doh, was that it could not be solved within a capitalist system because the predicament was a contradiction originating from the system itself. The negative future toward which South Korean society was heading, he argued, could only be restrained by factors external to the capitalist system: humanist values based on critical rationality.

Both literary criticism and education, according to Doh, were important with regard to this background, contending that "literary criticism’s social mission was constituted of the function and role to preserve, succeed, develop the cultural humanist value of a certain culture."[14] Regarding the methodologies of literary criticism arising since the 1960s and that encompass various fields, such as politics, economics, and culture, he supported their capacity to critically assess and apply the shared social values within contemporary society. Building on this idea, Doh has most recently been emphasizing the importance of literary criticism and education to counter late capitalism in Korean society. His current work insists that South Korea is facing a crisis of literary education and that students no longer sympathize with studying literature. However, he writes, by teaching literature, Korean society can "build a cultural community, make an intellectual society, and secure a common ground," thereby fostering critical citizens who can counter the totalitarianism.[15]

Book Culture Foundation (책읽는사회문화재단)

Since 2001, Doh has been Executive Director of Book Culture Foundation (책읽는사회문화재단).[3] In his position as Executive Director, he has constantly emphasized the importance of reading for sustaining a healthy civil society. He argues that a reading culture is what nurtures responsible citizens who have the ability to think critically. Working under the mission of providing people with better accessibility to books and of promoting reading habits, the Book Culture Foundation launched a project called "Miracle Library," which has built twelve children libraries throughout South Korea. The foundation also has supported eighty school libraries, five hundred small libraries, and many reading activities.

Humanitas College of Kyung Hee University (후마니타스칼리지)

In 2022, Doh was elected the first dean of the Humanitas College of Kyung Hee University (후마니타스칼리지).[4] The university has reorganized the former Liberal Arts College into the Humanitas College to strengthen its liberal arts education in social engagement, critical thinking, and cultivating a general understanding of humanities. Doh played a major role in the reform.


  • The Poet Cannot go to the Forest (시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다, 1994)
  • Conversation (대담, 2005)[16]
  • Market-Totalitarianism and the Barbarism of Civilization (시장전체주의와 문명의 야만, 2008)
  • The List of Things that are Uselessly Priceless (쓰잘데없이 고귀한 것들의 목록, 2014)
  • Leaving a Trail Between the Stars (별들 사이에 길을 놓다, 2014)
  • From the Age, Against the Age, For the Age (시대로부터, 시대에 맞서서, 시대를 위하여, 2021)


  1. Jung-il Doh and Jae C. Choe, Conversation [대담] (Seoul: Humanist, 2005), 20.
  2. ibid., 26.
  3. ibid., 30.
  4. Jung-il Doh et al., “Reflection and Prospect of 90s Culture and Cultural Studies [90년대의 문화와 문화연구에 대한 성찰과 전망],” Hwanghae Review [황해문화] 21(1998): 118.
  5. Jung-il Doh, “To the Speaker of ‘Depressed Mirror’ [「우울한 거울」의 화자에게],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 46.
  6. Jung-il Doh, “Utopia/Dystopia of Apgujeong [압구정의 유토피아/디스토피아],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 255.
  7. Jung-il Doh, “The Collapse Culture and Crisis of Critique [문화의 몰락과 비평의 위기],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 264.
  8. Jung-il Doh, “Market-Totalitarianism and Humanities in Korea [시장전체주의와 한국 인문학],” in Market-Totalitarianism and the Barbarism of Civilization [시장전체주의와 문명의 야만] (Seoul: Saenggagui Namu [생각의 나무], 2008), 149.
  9. Jung-il Doh, “Poetics of Simulation, or the Problem and Prospect of Fabricated Literature [시뮬레이션 미학, 또는 조립문학의 문제와 전망],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 212.
  10. Jung-il Doh, “Poetics of Oblivion, Poetics of Remembrance [망각의 시학, 기억의 시학],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 160–74.
  11. Jung-il Doh, “The Collapse Culture and Crisis of Critique [문화의 몰락과 비평의 위기],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 281.
  12. Jung-il Doh, “A Hedgehog, a Fox, and a Mole [고슴도치와 여우, 그리고 두더지],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 338–39.
  13. Jung-il Doh, “Market-Totalitarianism and Humanities in Korea [시장전체주의와 한국 인문학],” in Market-Totalitarianism and the Barbarism of Civilization [시장전체주의와 문명의 야만] (Seoul: Saenggagui Namu [생각의 나무], 2008), 133.
  14. Jung-il Doh, “The Collapse Culture and Crisis of Critique [문화의 몰락과 비평의 위기],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 266.
  15. Jung-il Doh, “A Hedgehog, a Fox, and a Mole[고슴도치와 여우, 그리고 두더지],” in The Poet Cannot go to the Forest [시인은 숲으로 가지 못한다] (Seoul: Minumsa, 1994), 342.
  16. Co-authored with biologist Jae C. Choe.

External links

Add External links

This article "Jung-il Doh" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles taken from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be accessed on Wikipedia's Draft Namespace.